As the home stand continued the Colorado Avalanche welcomed the Carolina Hurricanes hoping to avenge their only shutout loss of the season back in Raleigh. The scoring started early en route to a spirited, physical and sometimes wacky yet decisive 7-4 win for the Avalanche.
After the teams traded power plays the Avalanche got on the board at the tail end of theirs when Alex Newhook created space in the slot and passed to JT Compher who buried the puck at 6:48. And it wasn’t long before the next score as Val Nichushkin took over the puck and drove the net just minutes later and then Nathan MacKinnon found the loose change at 10:58 to go up 2-0. Both teams only had seven shots that period and the energy level wasn’t at full capacity for either team so the first period was merely a preview of what was to come.
It was only just the beginning as the second period was a total explosion of goals with three scored by each team. Compher got his second on the power play just under two minutes into the period. Then just 25 seconds later the storybook week for Ben Meyers continued as he scored his first NHL goal using his quick hands to pounce on a rebound at the net front,
At that point the Avalanche had a commanding 4-0 lead but Carolina wasn’t going to give up that easily. Jordan Stall scored at 3:02 and 8:44 off tip and deflection plays to cut the Avalanche lead in half to 4-2.
It was Alex Newhook’s time to shine at 11:17 and gave Colorado some momentum back with his own score but Sebastian Aho again cut the cushion back to two goals at 13:33 and the score held at 5-3 to end the second twenty minutes of play.
The third period was about the Hurricanes who kept hanging around just close enough to still leave the game lingering in doubt but they just could never get the score back to within one. Mikko Rantanen who had been fighting the puck all night managed to bury a feed from Nichushkin at 4:08. Andrei Svechnikov got a goal back for Carolina on a fantastic sharp angle shot on the power play at 6:28 to put the score at 6-4 heading down the final stretch of the game.
As the physicality turned up the Avalanche matched Carolina hit for hit including this leveling by Cale Makar on Jordan Stall. The hit was clean but caught him so much off-guard that Stall had to leave the game.
The home team had one more goal in them to give the fans seven celebrations at 11:43 when Nathan MacKinnon crashed the net and the puck went off a Hurricane and into the back of the net. At that point the last eight or so minutes was garbage time and the Avalanche brought home the 7-4 victory.
With the win the Avalanche now officially clinch both the Central Division title and the top seed in the western conference with 116 points. The only items left in doubt are the President’s Trophy as the Florida Panthers only sit four points back. Also, the Avalanche’s first round opponent is totally up in the air as the fight for the two wild card spots is an intense and unpredictable battle at this point.
Alex Newhook had a nice outing with a goal and assist but the budding chemistry with Nicolas Aube-Kubel is starting to shine through as they now have assisted on each other’s goals this week. Soon Jared Bednar is going to have a lot of options at his disposal on how to construct the forward lines but keeping these two together should be in consideration.
Newcomer Ben Meyers had a solid debut especially concerning he only had one morning skate with the team. The goal was a great moment in particular and really allows him to settle into the team. Otherwise he played his role as fourth line center well with 9:30 minutes of time on ice, held his own with 46 percent Corsi For and won 10 of 16 faceoffs. Meyers should be the perfect addition to the bottom six with room to possibly grow into a bigger role.
The last game of the home stand hosting the Washington Capitals at 7 p.m. MT on Monday, April 18th.